Yorkshire and Humberside

PuffinPuffin - Amy Lewis

Yorkshire Coast

The Yorkshire coastline consists of the perfect combination of beaches, rocky coves and towering cliffs. It combines a rugged coastline with a spectacular display of flowers and wildlife. Located along the length of this beautiful coastline are two Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves, Flamborough Cliffs, consisting of 400 foot high chalk cliffs and Spurn Point, a long, narrow hook of sand and shingle located at the mouth of the River Humber.

The Yorkshire coastline provides many opportunities to spot a fascinating array of birdlife and plays a regular witness to a variety of marine mammals, such as Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seals. In contrast, the shoreline below provides the opportunity to ramble through rockpools allowing you a brief insight into the extensive marine environment found further offshore. Leaving the land, diving beneath the waves at Flamborough Headland the journey of discovery only just begins. Reaching into a hidden realm of brown swaying kelp forests, chalk reefs and over 200 sea caves, whose walls are decorated in a mosaic of rare lichen. Two key Yorkshire marine sites, are Flamborough European Marine Site and Dogger Bank.

Spurn Point - David Nichols
                                             Spurn National Nature Reserve - David Nichols

Flamborough Head European Marine Site

Flamborough Headland or 'flaen' in Anglo-Saxon, meaning ‘sword’ or ‘arrow’ projects out into the North Sea. White chalk cliffs, reaching 150metres above sea level support over 200,000 nesting seabirds, including fulmars, razorbills, guillemots, auks, puffins and kittiwakes. Within the summer thousands of gannets feed here, diving into the sea at up to 60mph. Underneath the water is a spectacular landscape of chalk and limestone reef, extending up to 6km and creating the largest underwater chalk reef in Europe. This unusual reef consists of chalk pillars, from which kelp extends. The walls of the chalk pillars consist of a living faunal turf of anemones, sponges and starfish. Between the pillars the sandy seabed is home to scuttling lobsters and clumps of reef-making worms. Growing on top of the pillars are waving kelp fronds, which provide a home to small animals such as red algae and sea urchins. High diversity here results from a rich 200 mile long nutrient flow, the Flamborough Front, resulting from the meeting of the cooler waters of the North North Sea and warmer waters of the South North Sea, causing a nutrient upwelling. This nutrient-rich water concentrates a food supply off the headland, meaning fish, birds, whales, dolphins and porpoises congregate here to feed.

As a result of the erosive power of the North Sea Flamborough has over 200 submerged and partly submerged sea caves. The largest caves extend over 50metres inland from their entrance on the coast. Octopuses, conger eels and large lobsters can be found lurking within the caves. The cave walls are often covered in a solid mosaic of red, orange, white, yellow anemones and sponges.

Thornwick Bay - Lee Beel

                                                               Flamborough Head - Lee Beel

Dogger Bank

About 100 km (62miles) offshore in the North North Sea the sea bed forms giant sand hills, known as Dogger Bank (from 'dogge', an old Dutch word for fishing boat). This mountainous terrain extends over approximately 17,600 km2 (6,800 square miles), ranging from a water depth of 15-36 metres, approximately 20 metres shallower than the surrounding sea. Between these underwater mountains are plains of sand dominated by clams, sea potatoes (a type of sea urchin), shrimps, millions of sand eels and worms. High diversity here provides hunting grounds for thornback rays, dogfish, plaice and cetaceans.

This ancient region is a moraine, formed at the southern extent of glaciation during the last ice age. It once provided a land-bridge (a passageway for woolly mammoths) between modern day England and Denmark. Last April a mammoth tusk dated at least 50,000 years old was discovered at Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts' Spurn Point Nature Reserve, thought to have originated from Dogger Bank. The area is well known for its high primary productivity all year round in the form of phytoplankton. It is as a result, also an important fishing area for cod and herring and has been proposed as a potential Marine Special Area of Conservation.

Dog fish - Tom Ashton

                                                                     Dog fish - Tom Ashton